Weather really is an amazing phenomanon. When the dark clouds roll in and rain begins to fall....flights get delayed. When flights get delayed even for just 30 minutes a domino effect begins.
From a passenger prespective, it there is a storm at 8AM that is over by 11AM and they have a flight at 3PM, there is no reason that flight shouldn't be on time. Right? Well not so much. For this example the passengers is leaving an outstation on flight 8000 at 3PM.
Flight crews (especially at regionals) typically fly in and out of a hub 3 to 5 times a day. Follow this schedule for a crew coming in from an overnight for a full day of flying:
Flight 1000 Outstation to Base - 7:30AM arriving 9AM
Flight 2000 Base to Outstation - 9:30AM arriving 10:15AM
Flight 3000 Outstation to Base - 10:45AM arriving 11:30AM
Flight 4000 Base to Outstation 1:30PM arriving 2:30PM
On most days this schedule works just fine. Turning (landing, pulling into the gate, getting the passengers and bags off the plane, cleaning the plane, refueling, loading new passengers and bags and getting off the gate) in 30 minutes is very doable at most airports. When weather comes in and flights start getting delayed, the domino effect starts.
Flight 1000 took off on time at 7:30AM. While en-route a thunderstorm over the airport shuts down operations. Now they are in a holding pattern starting at 8:30AM. Thankfully they have plenty of extra holding fuel on board. At 9AM they burn the last bit of the holding fuel and head to the alternate airport. Meanwhile crew scheduling is calling up reserve pilots and flight attendants to staff flight 2000. Flight 1000 lands at the alternate airport at 9:25AM.
The reserve crew for flight 2000 waits at the gate along with the passengers as there is no plane available for the flight. Contrary to popular belief airlines don't have a fleet of planes sitting in a hangar standing by.
Flight 1000 is fueled up and ready to go. The weather is clearing. The EDCT for flight 1000 is 10:15AM. Another flight in route to the base is able to land at 9:55 AM. The plane pulls up to the gate and will be used for Flight 2000. Flight 1000 takes off from the Alternate at 10:15AM. At 10:25AM flight 2000 pushes out of the gate. Due to the weather there is a long line of planes waiting to take off.
Flight 1000 lands in base at 11:00AM. Flight 2000 takes off at 11:00AM as well. The crew from flight 1000 obviously won't be flying flight 2000 and flight 3000.
My airline has rules in place for weather events and scheduling. The crew from flight 1000 has been reassigned to cover another flight from another crew that misconnected. They are now assigned the following:
Flight 5000 Base to Outstation - 11:50AM arriving 12:30PM
Flight 6000 Outstation to Base 12:55PM arriving 1:30PM
The crew scatters to find food (they have been going since 6:20AM when they hopped in the hotel van). They push out at 11:50AM and wait in line of a long, but dwindling line of planes to takeoff.
Flight 5000 takes off at 12:20PM and lands at the outstation at 12:50PM. The station personell work hard (most out station personell work much harder than base....but that's a different story) and turn the plane in 16 minutes. Flight 6000 pushes out at 1:06PM. The flight takes off at 1:10PM and lands in base (where the weather is downright beautiful!) at 1:45PM.
Due to the morning of delays, planes are arriving both on time and delayed. There are not enough gates and flight 5000 is forced to wait on a taxiway. At 2:10PM a gate opens up. The crew had planned on being at their overnight via flight 4000 at 2:30PM. Not going to happen. Meanwhile the passenger for flight 8000 arrives at the airport and is steaming that his 3PM flight is posted as a weather delay when the weather outside and in base is beautiful. They release their frustrations on an underpaid gate agent. Why?
Flight 4000 which was scheduled for a 1:30PM departure is now set for 3PM. At 3PM flight 4000 leaves the gate. The passenger for flight 8000 swears he will never flight ABC airlines again. Of course two months from now he will buy another ticket. Because ABC airlines had the best fare.
Flight 4000 touches down at the outstation at 4PM. The crew for flight 8000 is just starting their day. Flight 8000 leaves the outstation at 4:40PM and lands in base at 5:30PM. And the whole cycle continues.
Delays domino at airlines. They typically stop overnight. Sometimes they continue for days.
I am sure most readers of this blog understand weather delays. This was written for those that don't.
I had planned on writing another blog this morning, but I just got called from home to cover a flight...why? Because weather is happening. More tonight.